Remember how Charlie
promised to send ''a sonic boom'' through the economy with the property-tax cut, bring in new revenue with an Indian gambling agreement, cut property insurance rates and create new jobs through accelerated spending on public works programs. In his 2007 inaugural address, he pledged ''secure work with good pay'' and ``world-class schools.''Well,
his promises have gone largely unfulfilled. The national recession converged with Florida's collapsing housing market to produce the highest unemployment rate in 15 years, the highest job losses of any state, and deep cuts in public education to balance a faltering budget."A Teflon governor".
Particularly childish was Charlie's inane boast that "property taxes will drop like a rock."
Yet, as Charlie hid under Obama's coat in Fort Myers yesterday,
the Senate's top budget writer raised the specter of raising the [property] tax rate."Property Tax Hike Possible". More: "Florida's budget outlook continues to get dimmer".
That's because next fiscal year, local property tax collections could fall $1 billion short of what will be needed to maintain the status quo for K-12 public education. Local property taxes provide the lion's share of per-student funding to operate public schools in Florida.
That $1 billion loss for schools doesn't even factor in the nearly $6-billion hole in the state budget that lawmakers are anticipating for the current and coming fiscal years through June 2010.
"And the worst is yet to come"
"Still reeling from a series of staggering budget cuts, Florida public schools learned Tuesday that they can expect another whack early next month. Education Commissioner Eric Smith told school-district superintendents to brace for another 2 percent cut in state funding when the Legislature convenes in early March. And the worst is yet to come, Smith told local school-district heads: Prepare for a 15 percent cut for next school year." "Schools brace for tighter budgets".
Obama visits "downtrodden" Floridians
"President Barack Obama swept through this downtrodden city Tuesday selling the biggest government spending plan in American history -- and himself." "President Barack Obama makes stimulus-plan pitch in Fort Myers". See also "$3 trillion! to attack the crisis" and "Crist, Obama join to promote stimulus" .
"Piper Aircraft Inc. announced it has laid off 300 employees from its Vero Beach headquarters."
It's not yet clear how the layoffs will affect the company's $32 million incentive package from Indian River County and the state. The package was supposed to help the company stay in Florida and add more than 200 employees. Piper has already received $4 million from the county and $6.7 million from the state."Piper lays off 300 workers".
"Best for Florida"?
The Orlando Sentinel:
For Floridians, the Senate [stimulus] bill means a variety of tax credits -- $15,000 for people who buy a house and bigger deductions for new-car purchasers -- as well as tax cuts and a one-time $300 per-person payment to the state's roughly 3.9 million elderly, disabled and poor people receiving Social Security benefits. The House bill offers far less.The The Orlando Sentinel editorial board's favorite son, Mel Martinez seems to have some explaining to do:
But the House plan sends far more money to state governments to fund ongoing programs, including public schools. The House provided $79 billion; the Senate cut that to $39 billion and required it be spent only on education.
Cash-strapped Florida would get $3.5 billion under the House bill, but only $1.7 billion if the Senate approach is adopted. Gov. Charlie Crist -- a Republican who has bucked his party to endorse the stimulus plan -- has said the money is badly needed to prevent huge spending cuts to offset a deficit that may top $4 billion. ...
The Senate also stripped about $20 billion approved by the House for school-construction projects.
Still, not even adding tax cuts in the Senate was enough to gain the support of GOP senators such as Martinez."Congressional negotiators must also reach compromise on an assortment of smaller differences."
"There is little doubt that Florida is undergoing the worst financial crisis that I can remember in my adult life," Martinez said. But he added that the Democratic package did not spend enough money on programs that could quickly create jobs, such as roads and bridges.
"There's still too much spending in this bill that's not timely, that's not targeted or temporary," he said.
Martinez and other party leaders downplayed the split between Crist and congressional Republicans -- all 15 of the state's GOP House members opposed that chamber's bill.
For instance, they must decide whether to penalize states, such as Florida, that have cut their education budgets in recent years. Under the House version, that decrease could cost Florida part of its $3.5 billion in state bailout money.Go read the whole thing: "2 plans: Which is best for Florida?".
Florida lawmakers urged Congress to repeal that provision, which House leaders included to prevent states from cutting education spending in anticipation of federal funds. The Senate bill allows Education Secretary Arne Duncan to waive the penalty.
Workers at Kennedy Space Center also have a stake in the final bill. The Senate version has more than twice as much money for NASA -- $1.3 billion, compared with $600 million in the House bill -- and includes money for human spaceflight.
The Senate bill also includes about $2 billion for the construction of Veterans Affairs facilities. Part of this money could be used to help build a $656 million VA hospital in Orlando, which has received some funding but needs more to finish by 2012.
Mel ... feel free to not to serve out your term ...
... and leave early. Indeed, feel free to leave before the conference committee on the stimulus bill finishes its work.
The Miami Herald editorial board writes that "objections from self-proclaimed deficit hawks who rubber-stamped a series of red-ink budgets during the presidency of George W. Bush ring hollow. ... It is time to end the bickering and phony arguments." "End the bickering over stimulus plan".
More RPOFer spinelessness: "Charlie Crist backs the $800-billion stimulus package, even if he doesn't care to talk about the details. But Crist's annointed state GOP Chairman, Jim Greer, after chastising Republican critics of that package, now clarifies that he's not sold on it yet". "Greer straddles on stimulus".
The deep thinking is underwhelming:
Republican legislators balked at the federal proposal, warning that it would saddle the next generation with enormous debt and do little to stimulate the economy.Haridopolos ought to (get public money to) write a book, or get a degree, draw a big salary to teach a college class, or otherwise share his genius with the general public.
"We're not getting our fair share, but we're more than paying back our fair share," said Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne. "I think it's pretty risky venture."
"School districts and county governments across Florida have a favorite when it comes to the two competing federal economic recovery packages: the House version. As Senate and House negotiators began Tuesday to hammer out a compromise they hope to send to President Barack Obama by the close of the week, school boards and county officials began readying e-mails and hitting the phones to push for pet provisions in the final product." "House version finding favor".
You wanted privatization ...
... and here it is: "Senators tore into the state's tourism chief Tuesday after he revealed that Florida hired a call center in Missouri to market Florida as a vacation destination." "To visit Florida, call Missouri, where telemarketers were hired by Sunshine State".
Obama delays "last-minute" Bushco plan to open Florida coast to oil drilling
"Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he has ordered a review of the nation's known offshore energy reserves and that the waters of the eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida should be 'on the table' as the Obama administration devises a comprehensive energy plan."
Salazar also delayed a last-minute Bush administration plan to open almost the entire U.S. coast to drilling, including Florida's, and said the nation needs to develop renewable energy sources in its oceans as well, such as wind and wave power."The Obama administration is looking at all offshore energy reserves including off Florida". See also ""U.S. delays order to expand oil, gas drilling offshore".".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Floridians heard during President Obama's visit to Fort Myers on Tuesday that he understands how important foreclosure prevention is to the state. If broad hints he gave were any indication, his administration is on the right track." "Hurry help for homeowners".
"The guy whose only real responsibility is to have a heartbeat"
Scott Maxwell: "Instead of doing away with Kottkamp, let's do away with the lieutenant-governor post altogether."
Seriously. Other states have done it. And now is the perfect time for Florida to consider it as well."So state wants cuts? Let's ax lieutenant governor".
While Florida is trying to cut costs and axing people such as teachers, who make a real difference, how about we get rid of the guy whose only real responsibility is to have a heartbeat?
I mean, be honest. Before last weekend, most Floridians wouldn't have even known what a Kottkamp was. And for good reason. The guy's only real job is to show up.
And apparently, that costs us a bunch of money.
Another fine Jebacy
"With millions of dollars at his disposal and his re-election in jeopardy, Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Buddy Johnson launched a voter education campaign last year unique in its scope and extravagance. The smiling supervisor's likeness was on colorful brochures mailed to voters. His name was broadcast on radio in English and Spanish." "Johnson Spent $2 Million On Voter Education".
"Florida’s 797,000 uninsured children"
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "Overlooked amid the feel-good rhetoric about a new federal law expanding health care coverage to 11 million more children was this:"
Florida has failed for years to fully enroll its KidCare program, leaving millions of federal dollars on the table and thousands of qualified children uninsured. That needs to change in Tallahassee. Gov. Charlie Crist and Republican legislative leaders need to find the dollars to capitalize on the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and they must revamp a bureaucratic enrollment process. To continue to fail to meet KidCare’s full potential is a horrible disservice to Florida’s 797,000 uninsured children and their parents."Don't forget state's uninsured youth".
Let's also not forget why these kids don't have health insurance in the first place: employers, like Wal-Mart, that provide employees little or no health insurance (or insurance that is too expensive viz. crap wages).
A little late to the game ...
As the Jeb-worship slides into the sewer (subject to revival at any time by the dead enders in the traditional media), some of our local scribes are starting to figure out that Jebbie's privatization schemes weren't all they were cracked up to be.
Frank Cerabino: "This month, the state began feeding its own prisoners again, ending a seven-year odyssey of free-market thinking that produced profit for a Pennsylvania company and millions of dollars in extra expense to Florida taxpayers, according to the state's own auditors."
So even if you don't care that the state's prisoners were the front-line pawns in this outsourcing experiment gone awry, you ought to pay attention to yet another pin prick in the bubble of political thought that goes something like this: Big business works much better than big government, so any time we can take government services away from government and hand them to profit-seeking businesses, good things will happen."Food for thought: Big government saves state money".
That was the philosophy in 2001 when then-Gov. Jeb Bush's quest to shrink government led to outsourcing the state's prison food service to Aramark, a privately held company with $7.3 billion in revenues and experience in providing food service to large institutions.
The contract was heralded as a way for the state to eliminate 300 employees, saving taxpayers $8 million a year [exclusive of the contract with Aramark]. ...
So now, Florida's back in the business of feeding its own inmates, and we have an opportunity to profit from the experience of having one more example of why government services may work best when they're actually provided by the government.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Lack of rain this winter isn't the only reason for South Floridians to use less water, but it's one of the reasons." "Anti-drought insurance".
"Jack Seiler was elected Fort Lauderdale's new mayor Tuesday, crushing his three opponents and winning the seat outright."
The former state representative who previously was Wilton Manors' mayor will replace Fort Lauderdale's longest serving mayor, Jim Naugle. ..."Seiler crushes opponents in Ft. Lauderdale mayoral win, Rodstrom will get second term".
A married father of four and an attorney, Seiler said recently he'd like to serve two terms before considering statewide office.
Let the whining begin
"Congressional bill would end ban on travel to Cuba".
"An east Hillsborough activist has filed complaints with the state Elections Commission against County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan and former Commissioner Brian Blair." "2 Face Complaints On Election Funds".
"Thomas E. Stringer Jr. was accused of helping an exotic dancer hide assets and accepting gifts from her." "Judge Under Investigation For Dealings Resigns".
The foreclosure thing
"Key West's mayor, who has made affordable housing his rallying cry, is in foreclosure on not one home but two. " "Both of Key West mayor's homes in foreclosure".